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Home News FISU Games athletes shine at USSA Athletics Championships

FISU Games athletes shine at USSA Athletics Championships

22 May 2024
Charné Swart (on right), 800m bronze medallist on the podium at last summer’s Chengdu FISU World University Games

Three days of enthralling athletics action saw four new university records set at this year’s University Sports South Africa (USSA) Athletics Championships, with the southern African country once again showcasing its talent and prowess on the track and field.

Taking place at Stellenbosch University’s Coetzenburg Stadium from 4-6 April, the event brought together the cream of the crop of South African talent, involving 19 universities (with an added 21 individuals from South Africa tertiary colleges) for a total of 529 athletes, all vying for medals in 47 different finals.

Windy conditions meant the athletes had more than just their direct competition to overcome, yet that did little to deter them in their quest for both individual and team glory.

Points were allocated to participants in each final based on placement, and after three days of competition, it was the University of Pretoria that topped the standings with 330 points, a fair distance ahead of second-place North West University on 285 points, with last year’s winners University of Johannesburg rounding off the podium places in third.

University of Pretoria (photo courtesy Karen Viljoen)

“I am extremely proud of the efforts of the entire University of Pretoria Athletics USSA team,” the university’s Head of Sport Steven Ball told “It was truly a team effort across the squad of athletes, where personal gain and performance was put on the back burner, but rather how each and every one could contribute to the overall team performance. I realised that competing for the university was important for each and every one of them, albeit in extremely tough weather conditions for all teams.”

Impressively for the winning university, 15 of the 21 medals achieved came from female athletes, with medical student Charné Swart – 800m bronze medallist at last summer’s Chengdu FISU World University Games – continuing her local dominance in winning both the 800m and 1500m events for a third consecutive year.

With 10 of the 20 medals Team South Africa earned in Chengdu won in athletics, there were unsurprisingly many other standout performers at the local meet, as four new records were set. One of the most impressive came in the women’s javelin where Jo-Ané van Dyk threw an almighty 62.70m, breaking a 21-year-old record set by South African Olympic silver medallist Sunette Viljoen.

Jo-Ane van Dyk in javelin competition during the USSA Championships (photo courtesy Jo-Ane van Dyk)

Teammate Brian Raats, who finished 12th at the FISU Games in Chengdu, equalled an eight-year-old record in the men’s high jump to take gold with a jump of 2.25m, while another two records were broken by yet another North West University athlete, this time on both the road and track. Neheng Khatala broke her own record in the women’s 10000m final, before obliterating the 11-year-old half-marathon record, shaving off nearly four minutes from the previous record to storm to gold in a time of 1:14:14.

“It was an honour to run at the USSA Champs in the 10000m and 21km events and obtain a gold medal in each and with new USSA records,” Neheng said. “I must say a big well done to my team and all my teammates and thank you to all our coaches for the hard work they put in to make our participation a success.”

Written by Fabio De Dominicis